The thrills of a BMW 3 Series has seldom been matched in the real world. Does it still hold true now that the childishly excitable sedan seems to have grown up a bit?
Words Aninda Sardar
Photography Aninda Sardar
If you had a bad back, this was the car that you’d absolutely avoid on a given day of the week. At least if you were driving on Indian roads. It had a suspension that was much too stiff, didn’t have too much space at the back and the steering was just too damn heavy. But on a good day, on the rare bit of smooth tarmac, the BMW 3 Series was an enthusiast’s true friend. Fun AF, I say. Then somewhere along the line BMW decided that the 3 should start growing up a little, and it has grown ever softer around its edges. The current one is the seventh generation iteration. With the new 3 Series, we got a chance to drive the 330i for a few days, I think the Bavarians have finally nailed the balancing act.
Let’s get the stats out of the way for the purists who will always diss the rounding off of edges. The 330i MSport that we tested posts a sub-6 second (5.8 seconds) time to get to 100km/h from a standing start. Behind those significantly larger kidney grilles is a 2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with BMW’s TwinPower turbo to give you a good kick up your arse when you stamp on the throttle. After all you’ve got the benefit of 258 horses and 400Nm of peak twist being channeled to the rear wheels – always the rear wheels in a BMW – via a quick 8-speed auto ‘box. The fact that the peak torque, all 400Nm of it, comes to you at 1550rpm and stays till 4000rpm means amazing drivability in all kinds of condition. A sure sign of growing up, and in a good way.
The other good part of the 3’s evolution is the softening of its ride quality. It’s positively plush now and I won’t be exaggerating if I said that there were times when I felt cosseted over the rough stuff. A far cry from the old and excitable 3 of yore. Space inside the cabin seems to have grown a bit too and I didn’t find the rear half of the cabin particularly cramped. The seats were pretty nice and plush too.
That said, the rear of a 3 isn’t where you’d want to spend your time if you were putting money down on this BMW. You’d want to be at the helm of affairs. In the driver’s seat. At first, the memory plays tricks because you suddenly realise just how much closer in demeanour the 3 Series has come to its competition from Stuttgart. This isn’t the rabid and excitable sedan that was forever wanting to charge ahead. This was far more mature and could show a remarkable degree of restraint. Not raw and raring to go but refined and sophisticated.
Somewhat bored, and perhaps mildly disappointed with what I had thought was loss of character, I decided to see if I could have some fun with this new 3 like I remember having with the old one. So I stepped on it, and boy we were back! The old kick up the arse that split the head in a grin is still very much there and the handling is as crisp and excitable – a little tail happy, as I’d expect a car with the 3 moniker on it to be. It was like the new and mature 3 had forgotten nothing of its childhood. Still as joyous, still as fun but with a dash of maturity and sophistication.
People often think that the car you choose to drive is about arriving at a conclusion based on mathematical parameters. They are right, but only partially. The part that such an argument ignores, and it’s a critical part that, is the fact that the car you drive inevitably matches your lifestyle and your general disposition towards life. If you’ve chosen to be in the driver’s seat of the new 3, it is because the BMW has been able to tug at your heartstrings while making sense to your head. And I wouldn’t blame you for it, because it did the same to me.